Tech Tip - Trad - Ten strategies for moving quickly on long routes

By David Schmidt ,

For years you’ve dreamed of free-climbing a Grade V in a day, but every time you attempt a Grade III or IV route, a symphony of errors always slows you down: evil approaches, inadequate water supply, or your cumbersome rack. Is your system as streamlined as it can be? The following light-and-fast tips will shave precious ounces off your load and offer advantages that can prove to be mission-critical by the seventh or eighth pitch.1. LED there be light. Always carry a headlamp on long routes, but make it a svelte one. Micro LED headlamps are infinitely smaller and lighter than standard headlamps; their batteries last longer (up to 120 hours), and their moonbeam-like luminescence doesn’t cast confusing shadows.2. Paperclip power. A rack of 30 wire-gate carabiners saves almost three-quarters of a pound over oval biners. Also, wire-gate biners significantly reduce the risk of gate whip and are less likely to freeze up on alpine routes.3. Sticky situations. Get a pair of super-lightweight approach shoes with sticky-rubber soles. Sticky soles give you added confidence on sketchy 4th class terrain, and the low profile of the lightweight models is key for unencumbered climbing. Tuck the laces into the toe box, clip a biner to the pull tabs, and clip the shoes to the back of your harness.4. Be prepared. Mother Nature can close in faster than you can climb. Carry a lightweight wind/rain jacket on ascents longer than three or four pitches. Numerous companies produce highly compactable four-to-six ounce jackets that’ll keep you dry and won’t weigh you down.5. Hydration. Are you going to carry a pack? If so, bring a bladder-style dromedary bag rather than a water bottle. Bladders get smaller as you consume water, and allow you to drink whenever you get thirsty, instead of rummaging around in your pack for a bulky bottle. For chimneys and off-widths, girth hitch a runner to the pack and clip it to the second’s belay loop. This will give you freedom to climb efficiently in tight spots (and will save wear on your pack).6. Sustenance. Energy gels pack smaller than energy bars, and offer a solid energy blast for their unit weight. Power down an energy gel pack and you’ll be ready to hike the crux pitch!7. Skinny runners. By converting your runners to Spectra, you can save weight and bulk. By weight, Spectra is stronger than nylon, and thinner slings make for easier racking. Most companies make Spectra slings, but Mammut has the lightest, in 8mm Dyneema.8. Trick triple. Instead of carrying full-length runners bandolier style, which can make for difficult clips, “trick triple” your runners as extendable draws (Figures a–d). To extend, simply unclip one biner from two of the three strands and pull.9. Storage space. If you’re climbing without a backpack, strip an extra chalk bag of its lining and clip it to your harness. This is an excellent place to stash your LED headlamp, rain jacket, a space blanket, and an energy gel or two. Shift it from side to side as the pitch demands.10. Navigation. Print out a topo on a copy machine, reducing it to 50 percent, plaster both sides with packing tape, and trim down to size. Punch a hole in the topo, tie a loop of thin cord to the topo, and clip or girth hitch it to a gear loop on your harness. Now you can suss out route Beta at belays and stances. Now that you’ve modernized and streamlined your system, you’re ready to tackle your dream routes in style.

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